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Withdrawing From the In-Law Guilt Games

Mar31

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So I have mother-in-law issues (yay! Sure this isn’t the first letter about that!)

I guess a little background info to start might help. My fiancé is Jewish and I’m Christian, as a couple, we have never had much of an issue, we agree on respecting each other’s religions and would never think of having the other person covert. My in-laws have had a hard time coming around and accepting to the fact that we will be celebrating all holidays and that neither of us is going to give up our own family traditions but find a way to mush them together to create our own.

We got engaged in September 2013 and found out I was pregnant in November and I’m due 7/17/14. We are planning on a small civil ceremony this spring. And to be perfectly honest, we were trying to get pregnant. I have some medical issues, abnormal pre-cancerous cervical cells that don’t want to go away but thankfully haven’t gotten worse either type issues. I had the green light from my Dr’s about trying to become pregnant, as it doesn’t affect the baby only my ability to carry full term. And since the Dr’s have also talked about having the cells removed which would only amplify my inability to carry a baby, let alone the scary cancer aspect where I would then need a hysterectomy (seriously I’m only 30!!!!!). We made the decision to start trying sooner then later. Turns out I’m a fertile-mertile and it only took a month. BUT all has been well, I’m not considered high-risk and am 24 weeks along carrying a baby boy!! My Dr has just been carefully keeping an eye on the cells (talking binoculars/microscope type things up my hoo-ha!) and keeping an oncologist around for referrals. (I love my Dr!) Though I strongly believe that this little boy is determined to keep his mama nice and healthy as it seems as though things are on the up and up. **crosses fingers as I have another hoo-ha watch appointment at 28 weeks**

When we announced that I was pregnant, my family was very excited. His, well… yea that was a fun conversation. This is a first for his family. He is the first to move out (even all of his cousins still live at home,) let alone start a family. My in-laws are in their 60′s and one would assume they would be excited to get a grand child (my own grandparents were the same ages when they passed and there were 9 grand kids so I not comprehending the non-excitement). I do understand the shock, and also saw my FIL have the biggest ear to ear smile when he realized that come this summer there is a little one that will call him grandpa. MIL? Well I guess the easiest way to describe her reaction, especially after they found out we had been trying is: “I would have preferred it (me getting pregnant) had been a mistake, not planned.” I bit my tongue so hard at that, I think it bled. I also promptly let me fiancé deal with them too.

The thing is it hasn’t gotten any better. The shock has weaned off, but they definitely have not warmed up. They act interested, ask about dr’s appointments, how I’m feeling etc, when my fiancé talks to them but never to me, when I’m around they don’t even bring up the baby at all. They have disapproved of the decisions we have made. “What do you mean she is returning to work after he is born and using daycare, that’s not what I did… why does she have to go to the Dr that much, that’s not how it was when I was pregnant…. You shouldn’t find out the sex, because I don’t want to know *gets mad when my family was called before them when we did find out*… why is she going to try to breast-feed, I didn’t… what do you mean the baby won’t be in a nursery at the hospital, why would you want him to room in?” GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Everything with them (her) always goes back to “well when I was pregnant” or “in my day…” AND I CAN’T DEAL ANYMORE! I feel like we have no support from them, so thank god for my family. They disapprove of daycare (which will be secondary as my mom has agreed to be the primary caregiver after I return to work but she also takes care of my Alzheimer grandmother, likes to take vacations, is a very talented artist with an at home studio/business and such, so we need a backup option for 1 or 2 days a week) but they won’t offer to watch the baby themselves. Everything we do or choose is wrong. When my last screening showed that the cells on my cervix seem to be improving, my MIL’s reaction was “see you didn’t have to rush”, not oh glad to see her health is improving/baby is OK/oh I don’t know BE HAPPY?!?!

I know I will never win with her. I know I will never get her full approval but now I’m having nightmares about how they will be around my son, let alone what I will have to deal with from them when I’m in labor. Maybe it’s just the hormones and crazy pregnancy dreams, or maybe it’s a real underlying fear. One dream in particular is that they watch my son so we can go to dinner, only to come home and find them glued to the TV and he was never fed and lying in a crib covered in his own feces. (I banish them from my house and never let them be alone in a room with him ever again)

My fiancé seems to think that once the baby is here they will be different. But I can’t seem to agree. Is there anyway to move past how I feel? I never want to come between my fiancé and his family; I am always encouraging visits and communication. But it’s getting a lot harder to be positive about them. Yes, I have talked to him about how I feel, though I did leave out the dreams. He feels it too. A pulling away by them, that they really don’t treat me as a family member/daughter. So at least I know I’m not imagining everything! (oh and lets not get started on the whole not treating me as a member of the family, his dad had to have emergency brain surgery (he is fine now) and I’m told I have to watch their dog, I’m not allowed to even be at the hospital for my fiancé during the surgery!!!!!!! Fiancé and I have worked through that one, it will never happen again. Yes, the dog was more important to them then me.)

Any advice, coping skills, brick wall to which I can slam my head against is greatly appreciated. I’m so excited to become a mother and have a family I can’t stand not feeling like everyone is on board!

– trying not to be a mess in NY

BOUNDARY TIME.

Listen, as someone who grew up in an extremely religious, conservative household (and married someone who also grew up in an extremely religious, conservative household), let me be blunt: Stop seeking these people’s approval, because you will likely never get it. They might one day come to accept you and the situation, but they probably won’t ever “approve” of it. And that’s okay. It’s really not your problem.

You went and purposely got pregnant “out of wedlock” and that’s obviously a really big sticking point of shame for them. (I got married at 20 because I wanted to move out-of-state with my boyfriend but also didn’t want to get like, disowned. So I get it.) And now they’ve decided that rather than accept the fact that their child has grown up and clearly rejected a lot of the values and morals they hold dear, they’ll just make you the bad guy, the bad influence, the outsider who stole their boy and corrupted him and roped him into an illegitimate child and blah blah blah…and they are determined to passive-aggressively remind you of your unworthy status at every possible opportunity.

You can’t change them. You can’t force them to forgive or accept or open their minds that maybe, MAYBE, there’s no point in having all these values and morals if you mostly use them to justify treating people like crap and alienating your children. (And also: getting pregnant while engaged is okay if it’s an “accident” but “on purpose” is not? Okay then! *flashes big ol’ W hand sign from Clueless*)

What you CAN do is put up some hard and fast boundaries so they have fewer opportunities to be awful to you. Particularly now, when you’re hormonal and emotionally vulnerable. Stop talking to them about your doctor’s appointments and the pregnancy. Stop telling them about your post-baby work and daycare plans. It’s not their decision or their business. They don’t approve. NOTED. THANKS FOR YOUR HELPFUL INPUT. MOVING ON.

And you can enforce your boundaries without “coming between them and your husband.” He knows how you feel and agrees with you (SO IMPORTANT! YAY! VICTORY!), so you don’t have to be all “choose a side! my side! banish them from your life!” Just be honest that you are done dealing with their many judge-y opinions about your pregnancy right now, and he can be a big boy and maintain the relationship on his own terms, from here on out. If your husband is on the phone with them, leave the room, and don’t dig for details on what they said about you afterwards. If he wants to visit with them, FINE— you’re sadly just not feeling up to it right now and send your regrets. If they do suddenly decide to get bent out of shape about it, your husband can certainly call them on their B.S. and point out that hey, you guys are awful to her, what do you expect?

I think your dreams and fears are perfectly normal — which is different than saying they are all perfectly logical and an absolutely true vision of the future. You’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy and have a strained and tense relationship with your in-laws. Your husband is clearly crossing his fingers and hoping his parents will snap out of…whatever their damage is once the baby is here; your brain is not at all convinced that anything will change and is playing out various worst-case scenarios in your dreams.

If I had to predict the future from over here on the sidelines, I’d guess the reality will fall somewhere in the middle. They will not be neglectful monsters, but they will also never have some kind of “WE WERE SO WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!!” breakthrough and be the loving and accepting family you’re hoping for. Best case, they will love their grandchild and be decent to him, but will probably continue to be judgmental, inflexible people who Just Don’t Like You Very Much.

(I doubt your MIL’s tendency to bring up how things were done back when SHE was pregnant will stop, because things were done differently back when SHE had a baby/toddler/child so she just doesn’t understand why YOU are having such a hard time with nursing/sleep schedules/potty training. That’s like, passive-aggressive MIL 101.)

And so you will continue to draw boundary lines — not in the sand, but with a nice permanent Sharpie marker. They will not come and stay with you postpartum to “help.” There will be topics you just don’t discuss with them. There will be topics your husband will have to flat out tell them are not open to discussion (like daycare, religion, etc.) and that’s that. Promise yourself that you won’t allow their disapproval to influence your parenting decisions. (Like having your overworked/overloaded mom as your primary caregiver — if that’s really the best option for everybody, great! But don’t do it just because you hope that will offend your in-laws less than using a center five days a week.) If they want to babysit, that’s also great! But you have to be able to trust them not to make the whole night an exercise in undermining your parenting. If you don’t trust them — well, that’s not “free” babysitting anymore. It will be totally worth it to find a non-related babysitter and pay them by the hour, believe me.

I’m sorry this probably isn’t as upbeat and encouraging as you’d prefer to read right now, but…these people probably aren’t going to change. At least not all that much. I could be wrong, of course, and the baby’s arrival will change everybody’s perspective on everything. But for now, they obviously see your wonderful, exciting and much-wanted pregnancy as a big Scarlet Letter of Cultural and Religious Shame. That’s really hurtful. But it’s their loss, ultimately. You do not share their worldview, so there’s no reason why you should feel compelled to put up with their weird demands that you be “punished” because of it, you know? I think the sooner you stop trying to win their approval, the better you’ll feel.

If they ask about the pregnancy and appointments, tell them everything is fine. If they snipe at you about how you “didn’t need to rush” or whatever, just be all, “maybe, maybe not. I’m fortunate to have a doctor I really trust for guidance.” Then change the subject to like, the weather. Don’t volunteer info in hopes that THIS TIME, they’ll be happy for you. Make Dealing With Them your husband’s job and feel free to check out of this relationship for awhile, particularly when you’re feeling vulnerable and emotional. And recognize that “you’re” not the one “coming between them and your husband.” They’re the ones doing it. They’re the ones playing weird guilt games. And there’s no unwritten daughter-in-law rule that says you have to play along.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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28 Responses to “Withdrawing From the In-Law Guilt Games”

  1. Lydia Mar 31 at 1:46 pm Reply Reply

    The writer mentioned she was worried about dealing with the in laws while she was in labour. I don’t understand why that’s an issue. There’s no need for a cheering section in the waiting room at the hospital, or even for anyone to know you’re in labour. They only need to know when you’ve had the baby. At least that’s my perspective. Labour is hard enough, don’t make it extra unpleasant by having people like that around!

    • Jill Apr 01 at 11:01 am Reply Reply

      I don’t understand why she thinks they would even want to be at the birth.  On one hand she complains that they’re not interested in the pregnancy or the baby but then she thinks they’re going to want to be there while she’s in labor?
      I agree just not to tell them until the baby is here.  Or have your fiancé call just before you’re ready to push and say “hey we’re having a baby today, gotta run!”
      And other than that I agree with Amy.  You won’t change these people, so just let your fiancé deal with them.  Also agree that your overworked mom might not be the best daycare option.  Good luck and congrats on the baby!

  2. IrishCream Mar 31 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

    My thoughts exactly! Call them with the happy news after your son is born. You do not, absolutely do not, owe them any participation in the birth itself!

  3. SarahB Mar 31 at 2:31 pm Reply Reply

    Amy put it very well.  There’s no need for you to do much of anything with your ILs.  Let DH take the lead, and tell him that you’re leaving it up to him to maintain the relationship.  You and he have to agree if something goes on your calendar, but otherwise you can stay out of it. 

    As for the commentary about your choices: “Oh, I’m so glad you found something that worked for you. This is what works for us!” smile and move on. 

  4. Diane Mar 31 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    I could have written this letter! Unfortunately, I feel like it has gone from Bad to Worse with my MIL. Since having our son last spring EVERYTHING is about HER. If I don’t properly grovel she calls my husband later to complain about me being “ungrateful.” If I ask her to do something a certain way with the baby I am being “bitchy” and “rude” to her. If I don’t let her (and ONLY her) hold the baby and essentially never touch the poor kid I am “keeping her grandson from her.” It’s very tiring and I once spent a four hour car ride back home from their house in tears because I just felt SO. AWFUL.

    Amy has it right though. You will never please them, and I am just starting to come to terms with that. It is a process, because we as people want to be liked, especially by those we love and consider family. It will take you some time to divorce yourself from the feelings you have about her and just accept that she is who she is and you need to ignore her. I’m having a hard time with the fact that I don’t want my son to see how his mom is treated but I feel like I will need to come to that bridge down the road and not worry about it now.

    I do hope it goes much better for you than it did for me. Good lord, I still get an anxious knot in my stomach when she comes to visit just thinking about how many passive aggressive comments I’ll have to put up with, or what she is going to complain about after the fact. (Once she called my husband to complain that I’d been snotty to her when I asked her to scrape down the inside of the baby food jar to get more out of it. Seriously petty stuff here.)

    Anyway, good luck to you. If nothing else at least know you aren’t alone.

  5. Jamie Mar 31 at 4:45 pm Reply Reply

    Just so you know, even when you have a good relationship with your in-laws, these things about how things are different still come up and you just need to take everything with a grain of salt.  My MIL still claims her sons didn’t whine, never had an accident after day 3 of potty training, slept through the night instantaneously, etc.  She doesn’t understand why I cant get my son to eat more foods even though my husband was pretty much the pickiest eater known to man as a kid.  I think that the 30 odd years (or longer) since they had kids has created a disconnect and you forget the small details, and just remember an overall happy childhood.  So when these things come up again, they’ve already glossed over them.  And finally after 4 years in daycare my MIL finally admitted that maybe its not such a bad place, that it seems more like a “preschool” since they’re actually learning things.  I don’t know what she expected them to be doing there all day. but I guess its progress… Anyway just want to say that these issues happen, with even the most accepting of MIL’s and you need to learn that the only right way for YOUR kids, is the way YOU want to do things

    • Sam M. Mar 31 at 8:46 pm Reply Reply

      Agreed! My MIL is a lovely lady but she just doesn’t know how to not give her opinion about childcare- it’s not passive aggressive- it’s just like she forgot what it was like to have a child! She will ask how the baby is, and at first we would just say “the baby is fine” but then they would push us for details. But then we’ll say “oh, she had a bad night of sleep” or “she’s fussy today” and my MIL will say “all babies cry” or “she’ll sleep when she’s tired”. So if we don’t tell her what’s up, she gets upset but if we do, she gives platitudes and tells us we’re whiny and that in her day, babies were just babies and people got over it. Sometimes, no matter how well-intention-ed, with your in-laws, you can’t win!

      • Tiffany Apr 01 at 10:24 pm Reply Reply

        Oh god, yes, this. Since mine was born it’s been a non-stop stream of “helpful” suggestions. 

  6. Jamie Mar 31 at 4:45 pm Reply Reply

    Just so you know, even when you have a good relationship with your in-laws, these things about how things are different still come up and you just need to take everything with a grain of salt.  My MIL still claims her sons didn’t whine, never had an accident after day 3 of potty training, slept through the night instantaneously, etc.  She doesn’t understand why I cant get my son to eat more foods even though my husband was pretty much the pickiest eater known to man as a kid.  I think that the 30 odd years (or longer) since they had kids has created a disconnect and you forget the small details, and just remember an overall happy childhood.  So when these things come up again, they’ve already glossed over them.  And finally after 4 years in daycare my MIL finally admitted that maybe its not such a bad place, that it seems more like a “preschool” since they’re actually learning things.  I don’t know what she expected them to be doing there all day. but I guess its progress… Anyway just want to say that these issues happen, with even the most accepting of MIL’s and you need to learn that the only right way for YOUR kids, is the way YOU want to do things

  7. Amy Renee Mar 31 at 6:20 pm Reply Reply

    I think Amalah’s advice is pretty spoton here. One thing I noticed is that “t from them, so thank god for my family. They disapprove of daycare, but they won’t offer to watch the baby themselves” – any chance your MIL is waiting for you to ask her and is feeling left out that you would choose your mother & daycare over her? She might feel that you will favor your family (and possibly your religion and your family traditions etc) over her. So if she is local it might be a good idea to ask if she wants to be the 1-2 day a week backup, if you think you could handle that without killing her. Or if not – offer to take her on a tour of the daycare once you pick one – my MIL was very anti-daycare center before our kids were born but now that she’s seen ours and how much the staff loves our kids she loves it as much as we do. I think she imagined some kind of institutional baby jail with rows and rows of neglected crying babies and was pleasantly surprised at how different reality was from her imagination.

  8. Megan Mar 31 at 6:39 pm Reply Reply

    This letter sounded like something I could’ve written! My MIL loves to compare everything to how things were back when she had kids/was pregnant. And it is BEYOND annoying. Luckily her husband is aware – mine was oblivious until I started pointing out all the crazy things she said. She also thought I was horrible for going back to work and leaving the bebe in daycare. Unfortunately, things got worse after my baby boy was born. BUT I’ve gotten a lot better at handling it. My mantra is that all the love my baby can get is good and I can’t let my tense relationship with my MIL get in the way of her relationship with my son. At the end of the day she loves him and that’s all that matters. Having said that I have had to set boundaries when she babysits him, which gets easier and easier the more we communicate (and the more I enlist my husband to help).

  9. Autumn Mar 31 at 8:52 pm Reply Reply

    I would start looking into regular day care not your mom and your MIL.  Being a caretaker for an aged relative with Alzheimer’s is very demanding, and can be like caring for an adult sized infant. I know infant care is expensive, but start searching for something besides family.  Have family as back up, let the grandparents be Grandparents.  Just my opinion.

      I don’t trust my MIL alone with my daughter.  It’s not an option.  My husband doesn’t think its that bad, but he is respecting my opinion and MIL isn’t alone with my child.  Don’t even bother explaining why, just never let that arrangement happen to present itself.  Playing her passive aggressive game, that way I don’t have to tell her I don’t trust her.  Win!

  10. Laura Lou Mar 31 at 9:38 pm Reply Reply

    Not to get too sterotypical here, but I am also a Christian that married into a Jewish family, and some of the MIL’s behavior strikes me as just typical Jewish mother stuff. It’s a slightly different culture that I had a hard time adjusting to as well. Unlike my calm, protestant, quiet side, my husband’s family discusses EVERYTHING ad nauseum with many opinions aired. MIL will ask everything about what you’re planning on doing, and will vocally disagree with it and tell you exactly how it was when she was doing it. The thing I had a hard time realizing is that this wasn’t really directed at me personally or my choices, it’s just how she was and she did the same thing to everyone. Now that I’ve been married for 10 years and have two kids, I’m practiced at doing what my husband recommended all along: nodding and tightly smiling to her, rolling my eyes behind her back, and then completely disregarding everything she said. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s annoying as all get out and boundaries are certainly necessary, but also, try to remember not to take her behavior quite so personally.

    • Alicia Apr 01 at 12:41 pm Reply Reply

      To add to this post from the other side.  I’m Jewish.  I married into a Christian family.  We don’t really get your culture: all the calm quietness is just weird.  And I don’t know anyone who got a shiksa pregnant out of wedlock :) but holy crap I can only imagine the tsuris (go look it up).  I agree with Amy’s general advice but, and I don’t know how to say this any other way, maybe just try to see what how big of a disappointment this is for them.  They should absolutely suck it up, never show you that’s what they feel, and realize life is never the rainbows and ponies you think it’ll be.  But god, they must be mortified.

      • IrishCream Apr 01 at 1:06 pm Reply Reply

        My in-laws are like that too…lots of discussion, lots of opinions. And they’re Christian! I don’t think it’s really a religious thing; different families have different temperaments.

      • karen Apr 01 at 6:47 pm Reply Reply

        LMAO! Yes! I am constantly negotiating culture dynamics with my in-laws who are Chinese. They are the most loving people, and have lived in the U.S. for >40 years, but are very confused by how my family does things. I nearly ended our relationship before it began by using their given names versus something more respectful the first time I wrote them a thank you note. That could have really derailed our relationship but we’ve moved past it.

        Honestly, your situation sounds pretty run of the mill as far as family dynamics go.

  11. Lauren Mar 31 at 11:08 pm Reply Reply

    Once you have your baby, you will not.give.a.youknowwhat about the people who do not lift you up and support you and your new growing family. Hopefully soon you will take Amy’s advice and cut them out of any conversation that could lead to judgement by MIL. She’s not worth your brain power! You have so many other things to spend your brain energy on, like a new baby boy and your awesome fiancé! So push any thoughts of the mean MIL to the very back of your mind. Once she realizes you won’t put up with her crap, maybe she’ll come around. And if not? No loss on your side.  You’ll be surprised how much your priorities slide into place once you have your first baby. Mean people go dead last.

  12. ras Apr 01 at 9:56 am Reply Reply

    The LW is justifiably hurt that her joyous news wasn’t well received by her fiance’s family. But can I veeeery gently suggest that this disappointment is coloring her own reactions to her ILs’ subsequent behavior, possibly making her see them as malevolent and cold when they could possibly be loving but imperfect? Because nothing else she describes sounds so terribly awful.

    The ILs are interested in the pregnancy and the baby. Ok, they disagree with LW’s choices, but is it possible that this is coming from a place of love, not judgment? As in, MIL is trying to connect with them about raising children and is finding that a lot has changed in the last 30 years?

    I think the reason I”m seeing it this way is because of the LW’s hospital anecdote. She’s hurt that the family asked for her help taking care of their dog while FIL was in the hospital. She sees that as a sign that they like the dog better than her (??!) I kind of see that as a gesture of love and acceptance. They trust her and consider her family enough to ask her for help in a trying time. That’s sweet, not insulting.

    FWIW, I love my MIL dearly. She’s been kinder to me than my own mom ever was, and she still falls into the “I don’t know why you’re doing it this way. I did X and my kids slept through the night a 2 months, ate perfectly and all read at age 2″ trap. That stuff can be hard to take, but it’s a lot easier when you can look at it as coming from love, not from unkindness.

  13. betttina Apr 01 at 1:33 pm Reply Reply

    My MIL finds fault with everything we do (even though she breastfed her sons and used cloth diapers, she thinks we’re insane for doing those two things; she haaaaates that we cosleep; she’s constantly feeding our toddler candy and junk food) and I mostly use the avoidance technique – prenatal appointments show the baby is great! Pediatrician says she’s growing perfectly!

    MIL HATED that we didn’t tell her the baby’s gender before birth but we chose NOT to find out! NO ONE knew, not just MIL.

    MIL HATED that we didn’t tell her the due date but even my Darling Husband had forgotten the exact date because we always answered “Oh, Baby’ll probably be here by the end of the month.”

    Now that Toddler is nearly 3, MIL has started accusing me of “always lying to her.” Since I didn’t tell her that it was a girl before she was born (see above – even I didn’t know it was a girl!) then that’s a lie. Since I didn’t share the exact due date (I didn’t even tell my work the exact date!) that’s a lie.

    Some people are difficult no matter what. I feel like I’m doing the best I can to share what information I’m comfortable with and I’m okay with her being mad at me for not telling her things. (SERIOUSLY, NOT EVEN THE OB KNEW IT WAS A GIRL BEFORE SHE WAS BORN.)

    I’d love to have a bunch of kids but I have (severe) endometriosis and my little girl is from IVF (which MIL DOES know!) so I don’t know if we’ll have more. I finally told MIL that when we have our 5th baby, she can come with me to every single appointment and she can know every single thing she wants – due date, gender, exactly how many pounds I’ve gained (yes, she asked.), everything. It’s what I’m comfortable with and so it works for us. (Sort of.)

    • Susan Apr 03 at 2:06 am Reply Reply

      My MIL, who is a generally sweet and loving woman, prattled on so much about how “we didn’t have ultrasounds in my day” that when I got pg with my second, I invited her to come with me to one of them.  She was really excited about it, but I don’t think she expected to see that much of, um, me (the paper blanket kept slipping down every time the tech moved the wand – yep, the carpet matches the drapes!). 

      My mom is actually the one doling out endless outdated advice, but she lives three states away and can’t see me rolling my eyes over the phone. She also started crocheting baby afghans as soon as I graduated high school… she was quite relieved when I finally got pregnant at the advanced age of 32!

  14. Laurie Apr 01 at 2:11 pm Reply Reply

    FWIW, this is the response I would have written. I’m 5+ years into the same situation and I think the response is spot-on, as are a lot of the comments.

    Once I was able to put DH as the buffer between me and my ILs, things got a little easier. Visits were always really tough. Now it’s just MIL, and we have a very tepid relationship because we finally just had it out one night. I’m not going to say it “helped” really, but at least it opened her eyes to where I stood and why. So, stay strong OP!!

  15. Mona Apr 01 at 8:34 pm Reply Reply

    My sympathies. My MIL turned into a royal pain the minute I married her only child. She said some seriously pretty awful things and was quite out of line OFTEN. My husband did the talking, stood up for me, and we set up some boundaries about things she was saying. There have been a few spats since, but between her and my hubs- she had largely chilled out. I think she was just largely feeling displaced.
    Long story short – we stayed strong but kind, we’re clear about boundaries but practiced letting past behavior go. She really came around, and things are good. SO, point being she may come around with time. Or not. But there’s so much value in grandparent relationships, I’m so glad she got over herself a bit. We found being clear about how we felt without being harsh and backing her pride into a corner helped her improve her behavior without losing face. Kinda stupid, but appearance is important to her, so that approach worked pretty well.
    She adores her grandchildren- so she’ll always be OK in my book for that, even if she’s said som regrettable things in the past.

  16. Amy Apr 01 at 9:25 pm Reply Reply

    I finally figured out that when my MIL said , that’s not the way I did it”, she felt that we disapproved of the way she raised her son. And I was totally taking away her ability to give helpful advice. So a lot of the time I’d tell her how her way was absolutely the way the experts of the time recommended. Silly how the experts change their advice every generation and then ask her advice on diaper cream or which fruit we should start first, etc. Keep telling yourself it’s not personal, it’s just her way.

  17. Caroline Apr 02 at 9:22 am Reply Reply

    Maybe they were really hoping for their son to marry a Jewish girl. Put bluntly, for a child to be Jewish, he or she has to be born of a Jewish mother, you’re not Jewish, nor do you plan to convert, nor are you married to their son. From their point of view, you are a girl who trapped their son into having a baby when your problems were apparently a non-issue (the ”no need to rush” part). Possibly they were hoping very much that your relationship would end and their ideal Jewish d-I-l would appear and get married, then pop out many Jewish babies.

    That you and their son are very happy, delighted with your life choices and excited about becoming parents hasn’t actually occurred to them. All they see is ”it’s not what we hoped for, for our son”. Good news though, you don’t have to put up with it! You can say ”gosh Barbara, that’s great that you did xyz, but I don’t intend to with a big, sunny smile” just refuse to engage and above all, do not name-call or moan overly to your fiancé. He is in the middle and obviously is on your side, but it cannot be easy… re the labour thing. You were left looking after the dog, so call them once junior is born (why the necessity to have every family member there? Is it a USA thing?) and if they get offended, just say ”oh, sorry, we just were concerned about your having to leave the dog for what might have been an extended time period. Anyway! Here’s little Jasper!”. This will be your reward for playing the long game, hehe…

    • OP, the mess in NY Apr 02 at 11:35 am Reply Reply

      I have been reading everyone’s comments and thank you all for the advice. I’m going to start to try to take them all into consideration and practice.

      Caroline: I loved what you said about the dog and I might just use that!! 

      Oh and on the him Jewish me not. When he has dated Jewish girls in the past his family always found them to be “too Jewish”. He’s said its because his ex’s families traditions were different then his families so his mother wouldn’t approve then either. His family is not extremely religious either, far from it actually. So I think they have just always used it as an excuse when it benefits them. “She’s not Jewish” “She is too Jewish” “Don’t you realize her name has ‘Christ’ in it” (my name is Christina) Thankfully my DH has realized how off all of that is. 

  18. Caroline Apr 02 at 1:15 pm Reply Reply

    Oh BUT OP!! don’t you realise that by not being Jewish at all, NOW you have offended them in some unspecified way and remember, they have Jewish friends who will comment and be asking ”why aren’t they married” and eyebrow raising from here to next Thursday!! You forget this! You forget that you have now RUINED – you hussy – the dream that the just-Jewish-enough girl from exactly the same background as their son, and I mean precisely will now never be blessed by marrying their son. Because of you! See? It’s all so obvious…
    I realise this doesn’t help, but when you do get married and your little man is here, it will calm them down because the reality will set in. Right now, it’s an idea, an idea that they weren’t very much in favour of… and the daycare thing that others have mentioned, yes, your mom is clearly overwhelmed and quite burdened, so make it an occasional thing, maybe when LO is sick and can’t go to day care or at odd times, but till the other caring burden is lifted, it will be like having an adult-sized toddler (but less fun) and a small, demanding baby, a recipe for tension and possible accidents.

  19. DontBlameTheKids Apr 02 at 7:03 pm Reply Reply

    Amy’s right. I grew up in a strict Mormon household. My parents are still Mormon. They will never, ever fully approve of my life. But you know? They do absolutely, 100% fully love each and every one of the grandkids. 

    Of course, they annoy the crap out of all of us with all their disapproving remarks. I just roll my eyes and continue on. 

  20. lindsay Apr 02 at 10:41 pm Reply Reply

    i want to just mention that before you commit to having your overworked mother act as part-time child care, wait until the baby arrives and see how your mother handles the baby. When my son arrived, My parents, who are in their 60s, tried to be helpful and were happy to watch the baby, but they were very much out of practice, and had trouble getting in the swing of things. Now that he is 2, they are exhausted after spending a day with him.

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